EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Dunlap, an honorary member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and editor of the Association's official organ, The Detective, has had access to the secret files of police and other law-enforcement agencies, and presents herewith facts never before published.
Dillinger had a lot of people fooled — including most of the newspaper readers and audiences who saw newsreels of his Little Bohemia adventures.
These people thought he was the cleverest crook that ever lived, the most daring, the most elusive. "Wooden-gun Dillinger" they called him. "The modern Raffles." "The new Jesse James." As such, they were "for him."
Yet Dillinger was as big a fool as any criminal at large today. The fact that he spent almost nine of his thirty years in jail, and was twice shot and twice captured in his little year of freedom following his parole, adequately demonstrates the truth of that statement.
What made him look so brilliant and dashing was the bad teamwork of the police. Never have the various police agencies of the United States worked in such utter disharmony as they did on the Dillinger case. Yet, even working against each other, they caught up with their quarry in a very short time and pumped him full of lead.
There is a semblance of co÷peration now — since Dillinger is out of the way. A more or less united front is opposed to criminals of all kinds. There will be no mercy shown Dillinger's pals. And they will be found, soon or later, dead or alive.
It will not do any harm, therefore, to point out to the police the mistakes made while Dillinger was alive — since, no matter how often or how woefully the cops blundered, they finally erased all errors with their guns.
Dillinger's end should be a warning to other criminals. The chase of Dillinger should be a warning to all police officers that co÷peration is essential in the war on crime. Even the veriest fool can get away — and make himself look important — when police cross each other.
Dillinger had always been a fool. He never finished school. He never held a steady job. He thought he could live by easy money; and he was caught in his first attempt to get it. He cracked an old man, B. F. Morgan, a grocer, over the head with an iron bolt wrapped in a handkerchief, and took a few dollars from him. The victim recognized his assailant. He had known him most of his life. He caused Dillinger's arrest. And for his stupid and brutal crime Dillinger was sentenced to prison, to serve from ten to twenty-one years.
Released on parole in May, 1933, he involved himself immediately with ex-convict friends and loose women. With William Shaw he went out to Monticello, Indiana, to rob a pay roll. The watchman frustrated the attempt, and Dillinger shot and wounded him — then wanted to go back and kill him. Shaw prevented that. Dillinger next proposed that Shaw help him rob a bank in Lebanon, Indiana. Shaw refused.
Dillinger thereupon rubbed Shaw off his list of friends, and allied himself with others who had no scruples about robbing banks and killing anybody.
By August, 1933, two good detectives knew all about him and his friends. They were Forrest C. Huntington, who was employed by surety companies that had bonded several banks Dillinger had looted; and Matt Leach, captain and head of the Indiana State Police.
Huntington and Leach, working in harmony for a time, talked to Shaw and got from him valuable clues to Dillinger's whereabouts. Then they brought about the arrest of "Whitey" Mohler, and Frank and George White-house. Dillinger had spent money lavishly on these three men. He had taken Frank Whitehouse and his wife to the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago.
Through them Leach learned that Dillinger, Sam Goldstein, Harry Copeland, and Homer Van Meter had rented a flat in Gary, Indiana, and housed their cars in a garage a block away. The Gary police gave Leach a few men to surround the apartment house — but they couldn't spare any to watch the garage. Leach went bumping over the roads at sixty miles an hour to the state police barracks eighteen miles away, and rounded up all the available men. When he returned he found the Gary police had arrested Goldstein. But Dillinger, Copeland, and Van Meter hadn't come near the apartment building.
Leach hurried to the garage. He had left instructions with the boy in charge there to phone the police immediately if any of Dillinger's band showed up. He had had to trust the boy; there was no one else to do the work. Dillinger, Copeland, and Van Meter had come to the garage during Leach's absence. They had left word for Goldstein to pick them up at a roadhouse about nine miles out of Gary.
The boy had phoned the police, he said, but some one at the police station had stated he didn't know anything about the matter, and had hung up.
Leach and his men went immediately to the roadhouse, but Dillinger and the other two had flown. Leach learned later that he had lost them by only a few minutes.
Whitey Mohler, however, gave the police another valuable lead: "Dillinger's got a girl in Dayton, Ohio — a Mrs. Mary Longnaker. She's got a husband — though she's not living with him. She can't run around with Dillinger on account of her two kids. So he goes to see her. Watch her house and you'll get him."
"They were all fools." 1, Tommy Carroll — dead. 2, Homer Van Meter — dead. 3, Charles Makley — dead. 4, Harry Pierpont — wounded, condemned to die. 5, Russell Clark — sentenced to life. 6, Harry Copeland — in jail. 7, John Hamilton, and 8, "Baby Face" Nelson — both still at large, but as hunted men, and Nelson as Public Enemy Number One. "The cops may be dumb at times. They may fight and double-cross each other. BUT they get the crook in the end."
Leach and Huntington notified the Dayton police. And in September Dillinger was found in Mary Longnaker's room, and handcuffed before he could make a fight.
Chief of Detectives S. E. Yendes, who made the arrest, did not notify either Leach or Huntington. They read it in a newspaper. Leach felt bitter. He went to Dayton with a warrant for Dillinger, and demanded his custody and all his effects.
Yendes defied Leach and kept the prisoner in Dayton with all his papers for several weeks. He intended to turn him over to Chief of Police Mike Morrissey of Indianapolis — but not right away. Before he turned him over to anybody he wanted to know about the reward. He wanted the reward, he told Huntington, for the landlady who had notified him when Dillinger arrived. The surety companies had offered a reward of $100 for Dillinger's arrest in sixty days. The time limit had expired. There was no reward; but the surety companies promised to give Yendes something for the automobile and the $2,604 that Dillinger had with him when arrested.
Before anything could be done about this a smart Cincinnati lawyer advised Dillinger to plead guilty to robbing an Ohio bank, and stay in Ohio. Then he would be sent to a little jail at Lima. If he were sent back to Indiana, rescue might be difficult.
Dillinger pleaded guilty; but before he was sent to Lima, ten of his friends, armed with automatics, walked out of the Indiana state penitentiary at Michigan City. Among them were Harry Pierpont and Jimmy Jenkins, Mary Longnaker's brother, a lifer in for murder.
Dillinger, acting under Pierpont's orders, had bought the guns in Chicago, hidden them in a box containing thread, and shipped the box to the shirt factory in the prison. The box got there with scarcely any examination. At that time, convicts said, you could have smuggled machine guns into the prison.
Leach said this jail break could have been prevented had he seen the papers Yendes took from Dillinger. Yendes retorted that he had given Leach full permission to copy every word contained in those papers.
At any rate, because of a police quarrel ten men had broken jail, and Dillinger stayed in Ohio. Shortly after he was shut up in the jail at Lima, five of the ten rescued him, brutally killing Jesse Sarber, the sheriff.
Huntington had sent warning to the Pinkerton Agency, which guarded Ohio banks, that a rescue would be attempted; and the Pinkertons had warned Sarber.
Leach went to Lima at once. He was present when Pierpont's brother Fred was questioned. Fred admitted his brother was the ringleader of the gang that had liberated Dillinger. He identified — by their rogues' gallery pictures — every man in the mob. He swore they were living at a certain house in Hamilton, Ohio, or in a river camp operated by the couple who ran the house.
Leach remembered Gary. He phoned Al Feeny, Indiana's Commissioner of Public Safety, at Indianapolis, and asked for eighteen men. Then he went to see Chief Calhoun of Hamilton. "Let's surround the house at once," he said. "If the men are not there, we'll go immediately to the river camp."
"No," Calhoun said; "we'll investigate first."
He slipped away from Leach and his men. He was gone for three hours. He returned to say he had investigated the camp and found no one there. He was ready to rush the house.
Approximately thirty men were thrown about the house. Chief Calhoun knocked on the door, went inside, stayed a little while, and came out, saying the men had gone.
Leach, maddened to the point of fury, rushed his eighteen men to the river camp. He says the stove was still warm when he got there. He returned to Hamilton and made inquiries in the neighborhood of the raided house. Dillinger, Pierpont, and the others, he says he was told, had quietly slipped out the night before — while he was urging Calhoun to "do something immediately."
After the escape from Hamilton the gang raided the police stations at Auburn and Peru, Indiana, and stole machine guns, riot guns, and bullet-proof vests. Homer Van Meter, posing as the staff writer of a detective magazine, had been told by the police themselves exactly what arms they had and where they were kept.
Thus armed and equipped they held up the Central National Bank at Greencastle, Ohio, and left with $20,000 in cash and $56,000 in bonds. They were in the bank ten minutes. A bank employee called the police.
The police had ample time to respond; but they went first to the sheriff's office — going a long way around the bank — and when they arrived the bandits had gone. The sheriff's office is directly across the street from the bank. There were a deputy sheriff and a state policeman in the office. Had they known of the robbery in time, they could have stood at their windows and picked off Dillinger and his pals as they came out.
The Dillinger-Pierpont mob went to Chicago. Dillinger was but second in command. Pierpont was boss.
Women Dillinger had known, men he had trusted, and stool pigeons he did not suspect soon made him and his whereabouts known to the Chicago police. One stool pigeon even paraded Dillinger in front of a police official to show that he, the stool, was on the level.
The Chicago police, through the work of Lieutenant John Howe and his undercover men and the co÷peration of Huntington and two stool pigeons — one furnished by Huntington and the other by Emory Smith, assistant attorney-general of Illinois and counsel for the Illinois Bankers Association — learned where Dillinger kept his guns, who stole the automobiles for him and the gang, who was trying to sell the Greencastle bonds, and the addresses of his two flats.
They learned also that he was visiting a doctor on Irving Park Boulevard every day at certain hours. The doctor was treating him for ringworm.
They wanted him; but they wanted Pierpont more, and Makley and Clark and the others who had helped to murder the sheriff of Lima, Ohio. They could have picked Dillinger up at any time. But they wanted him to contact the others first. He was only a "punk" to Chicago.
Chicago cooperated with Indiana and Ohio at this time. Indiana demanded action. Three squad cars and one driven by Huntington went out to pick up Dillinger as he left the doctor's office.
They saw Dillinger arrive and park his car, saw him go across the street and up the stairs, leaving his girl, the half-Indian Evelyn Frechette, in the driver's seat. And now some of the thirty hunters got cold feet. They were afraid of missing Dillinger when he came out. They conferred with Huntington — because his stool pigeon was involved. They wanted to take Dillinger as soon as he reappeared — but that might mean the murder of the informant. Huntington reluctantly agreed. The three squad cars moved into better strategic positions.
Dillinger's machine was bracketed by two police cars. Another was across the street. Thirty armed men waited tensely. Dillinger came out, got into his car, backed it into Irving Park Boulevard, and started away. Only one car had seen him. Only one car followed.
They fired at ten feet with riot guns and automatics. They shot into his windshield, his front window, his front tires. Dillinger stepped on the gas. So did Huntington. Dillinger went seventy-five miles an hour. Huntington followed him for miles. Dillinger put out his lights, slowed down, and darted into an alley. Huntington's car went past it. Before he could turn and come back, Dillinger and the girl had gone.
The police with Huntington told their superiors that Dillinger's girl and a companion with a machine gun had fired on them. They pointed to holes in the windshield and the side windows. But there was no machine gun in Dillinger's car. And neither Dillinger nor the girl nor anybody else fired on the cops. The holes in question had been made by the cops themselves.
After that, Dillinger cleared out of Chicago for a time. He made several trips to Mooresville, Indiana, to eat dinner at the home of his father or his sister. Once he went to kill a lawyer who had "vanished" with $3,200 of his money. Several times he went to Indianapolis with Pierpont to kill Matt Leach. Pierpont believed Leach had arrested his brother and his mother. Dillinger's reason was that Leach knew too much.
Running down an Indiana road at a great speed, Dillinger's car hit another machine and went into a cornfield. It was abandoned there, and curious farmers found an automatic cartridge clip in it.
Leach went out to investigate. "It must be Dillinger's car," he thought. "He's a fool for luck. Nobody else on the face of the earth could have gone into that cornfield in the dark without killing himself. If it was Dillinger, he probably went on to Indianapolis, and he'll probably buy a car and drive away. He'll have to buy it for cash — or have some woman buy it. If I call up every automobile dealer in the city, I'll get him."
But it might be a better idea, he thought, to have the Indianapolis police contact the dealers. The man on post could see every dealer within the city limits in a short time. Therefore he stopped at the police station, made his request, and busied himself in other ways.
It was not until three o'clock the next afternoon that he heard from the police. They had found a dealer who had sold a car to a woman for cash. Leach investigated immediately, found out beyond doubt that the purchaser was Evelyn Frechette, and tried to pick her up. But by that time she and Dillinger had been gone for hours.
In Racine, Wisconsin, the gang raided the American Bank and Trust Co. A bank employee stepped on an alarm button which not only notified the police but rang a gong in front of the bank. A great crowd, attracted by the gong, looked in through a window and saw the bandits at work. Leslie Homer, later arrested, pasted up a Red Cross banner and shut out their view.
The cops arrived in no time. Three dashed into the bank, one with a machine gun in his hands. A bandit standing near the door hit the machine gunner, Policeman Cyril Boyard, over the head from behind. Boyard dropped. The second policeman, Sergeant Wilbur Hansen, was shot and badly wounded. The third, Frank Worsley, wisely retreated.
The bandits emerged from the bank holding Boyard, President Grover Weyland, and Mrs. Ursula Patzke, an employee, in front of them as screens. They dropped Boyard a mile from the bank, and released the other two hostages thirty-five miles farther on.
Dillinger frequently used women to screen himself from police bullets — but he got a reputation for gallantry and chivalry just the same.
In January of this year the mob went back to Indiana, robbing a bank in East Chicago. Dillinger and Hamilton walked into the bank, the former carrying a machine gun in a trombone case. Again the police arrived in a few moments. Patrolman Hobard Wilgus walked in, pistol extended. He was disarmed and made to line up with the employees. Dillinger, machine gun ready, looked outside.
"Get all the dough!" he cried to Hamilton. "There's cops out there, but we'll kill them and get away!"
When all the cages had been cleaned out and some $20,000 had been bagged, Dillinger forced Vice President Walter Spencer to accompany him outside.
At the entrance of the bank stood Policeman William P. O'Malley. He wouldn't endanger Spencer by firing. While he hesitated, Dillinger sprayed him with machinegun bullets. Dillinger and Hamilton then rushed to their car, still using Spencer to protect them. At the car Spencer fell, and the police opened fire, wounding Hamilton. But he and Dillinger got away.
Leach and Huntington learned that Evelyn Cherrington, alias Fay Miller, Mary Johnson, Ann Johnson, and Ann Jackson, formerly Harry Copeland's sweetheart, was nursing Hamilton. They started looking for her. Meanwhile Dillinger, Pierpont, Makley, and Clark went West with their molls. They were arrested in Tucson, Arizona.
The Wisconsin police wanted them for the Racine bank job. Leach, representing Indiana and Ohio, wanted them for bank robberies and for murder. Wisconsin offered a $2,500 reward. Dillinger offered to pay that and $5,000 more to the Arizona police if they'd turn him over to Wisconsin. Leach called the Governor of Indiana, who called the Governor of Wisconsin. Wisconsin withdrew. Ohio was awarded Pierpont, Makley, and Clark, wanted for the murder of Sarber. Lake County, Indiana, got Dillinger. Leach had to be content with the other three.
Leach quarreled with two Tucson officers who wanted to accompany him East — at Indiana's expense.
"They came to me at the train as I was putting the prisoners aboard," he says. "They called me such names that I almost pulled my gun on them. No man ever called me such things in all my life. It was more than any man could endure. The chief of police of Tucson was appalled. He wrote me that he was sending those two men to me to make their apologies in person. They did come to Indianapolis. But they never came near me. They came East in an effort to get a vaudeville engagement. And that's a statement I can prove."
Dillinger was placed in the "escape-proof" jail at Crown Point, Indiana, and the lady sheriff, Mrs. Lillian Holley, nervously swore he would never escape. She wasn't so sure of that, however, for she asked to have him removed to the state penitentiary. Lake County officials, who wanted the glory of convicting Dillinger, made her change her mind. Dillinger escaped soon afterward, and the world was told he did it with a wooden gun.
This is untrue. It cost him $20,000 to escape. For that sum two loaded guns were smuggled in to the Crown Point jail, one for Dillinger and one for his colored cell mate, Herbert Youngblood. The money was paid by Evelyn Frechette.
The guns were hidden in the false bottom of a garbage can that was placed in the cell block. Mrs. Anna Sage, a notorious woman, had been allowed to visit Dillinger in prison and warn him to be ready.
With these guns Dillinger disarmed his jailers and got away. He rode off in the sheriff's car to Chicago. He passed hundreds of cops looking for him. In her excitement Sheriff Holley had broadcast the wrong license number of her car. Only Dillinger, a fool for luck, could have that "break."
Incidentally, the garage in which Sheriff Holley kept her car was owned by Clyde Rothermel, whose sister married John Hamilton's brother.
These facts were related to Edward Barce, assistant attorney-general of Indiana, by prisoners in the jail at the time, and were confirmed by George Hargrave, head of the Hargrave Secret Service of Chicago. He was employed by the State of Indiana, after the escape, to make a thorough, independent, and impartial investigation into the "wooden gun" story."We'll get Dillinger through Hamilton," Leach said. "And we'll get Hamilton through his nurse."
The nurse prepared a home at 75 Windermere, Highland Park, Detroit. Leach's men holed up in a house across the street. They watched the place night and day with spyglasses. Presently Evelyn Frechette appeared. It would be but a day or two before Dillinger arrived — and, perhaps, Hamilton and others.
But Youngblood ran amuck in Port Huron, Michigan, killed an officer, and was himself shot. On his deathbed he said he had been with Dillinger the night before.
Leach hurried to Port Huron, believing Dillinger might be there. Newspapermen recognized him. Was Dillinger in Detroit? He answered as best he could. The newspapers printed what they believed. They had been on the street an hour when Evelyn Frechette and Evelyn Cherrington packed up and disappeared, going to New York with Dillinger and Hamilton.
Dillinger was next found in St. Paul.
Mrs. D. S. Coffey, owner and caretaker of an apartment building, became suspicious of people visiting one of her flats, and called up a federal agent. An investigation showed that the occupant of the flat had bought a car which was registered under a fictitious name and address. He called himself Carl Hellman.
Department of Justice Agent R. C. Coulter went to talk to the suspect. He took with him Henry Cummings of the St. Paul detective bureau, a man of about sixty.
Cummings and Coulter went up to the third floor and knocked. Evelyn Frechette stuck out her head, said Hellman was out, and locked and bolted the door.
Publication Date: October 27, 1934